What not to bring to college, and what not to buy right away

Alec Sitton, collegetownnc.com

The author's dorm room a day after move-in. Photo by Alec Sitton

When I was a freshman moving into my dorm, I spent hours with my parents unpacking carloads of furniture, books and random items. It was too much — but at the same time, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t bringing the right things.

Here are the most important to least important things to bring with you to start your dorm life.

What you’ll definitely need

At the top of the list, we have the essentials: toiletries, laundry detergent, sheets, shoes, clothes … you get the idea.

Let’s talk about those clothes: Do not, under any circumstances, bring your whole wardrobe, especially if your college isn’t that far from home. You do not need that winter coat when school starts and it’s 88 degrees out and humid. Plus, there is absolutely no room for it in the 12-by-1-foot prison cell they will have you and another person cooped up into.

Next on the list is the stuff you can’t live without. You’ll want to bring your laptop and cell phone for sure — and a television and tablet if you have one. Get a surge protector, too, because you’re always going to need more charging space. These are very important not only for school work, but for entertainment purposes, as well. We all know that every night of college is not a party, so on those off nights, it’s good to lay back with some Netflix and Twitter.

You’ll want a fridge and a microwave for quick meals in your dorm. But check with your roommate to make sure you aren’t bringing duplicates.

Most schools give you some printing money each semester: $40 at UNC, $32 at Duke, $15 at N.C. Central … but none for N.C. State. (Sorry, Wolfpack.) Even if your school does cover printing, it can be nice to have a printer in your dorm room for when it’s 7:55 a.m. and you forgot to print that paper for your 8 a.m. (Believe me, it will happen.)

What you can leave at home

Your dorm room is not going to be big, and you have to share it with someone else. There is no need to bring a whole couch into that room. So many people bring futons or small couches, but if I could go back, I wouldn’t waste my money on one. Most dorms come with desk chairs you can sit on, and your bed can always make a good seat too.

Another big thing to not waste your money on is decor. Ladies, I know: “That Pinterest post is adorable, and the room would be so cute!” But seriously, save the money. No need to spend money on cheap dorm decor — unless it’s something really nice that you could see yourself moving into an apartment or house a couple years down the line.

And maybe the most important piece of advice I can give you: Buy all your notebooks, paper and pens, but DON’T buy your books ahead of time. I learned this the hard way. I accumulated tons of books I never ended up using and had the hardest time trying to sell back. Some professors will barely use the books, and some won’t use them at all. At the very least, wait until you’ve gone to the class once before buying the books for it. It will save you time and money. You can thank me later.

Do what you will with this knowledge, but I encourage you not to splurge on making your dorm life the fanciest living experience you can. You’re gonna need that extra money for ramen.


Alec Sitton writes for collegetownnc.com, where this article originally ran.